I remember the first time I woke up with a hangover that I mistook for ACTUAL IMMINENT DEATH. I opened my eyes and instantly knew that something wasn’t right; I wasn’t a little bit groggy, or a little bit foggy. This was one of those can’t-move, so-queasy-but-so-much-head-pounding “Jesus god what the fuck is happening to me, and also, how can I make this stop?”
First, let’s just establish a couple of things:
1. Sometimes, this shit is going to happen, and there’s no point beating yourself up about it because, let’s face it, you really don’t need to feel any worse than you already do. Tellingly, the night before had been powered by a really bizarre mix of beer and cocktails that combined bourbon with apple juice. I have since discovered that my body just cannot, absolutely will not, process whisky, and it doesn’t love beer very much either. This sort of extreme reaction doesn’t occur when I’m drinking vodka or gin, for instance, and actually, I barely feel it at all when I’m drinking tequila. There is a reason for this, of course, which is that barrel-aged drinks like brandy, wine and whisky create more chemicals congeners during the fermentation process, which are also the bastards that increase the severity of your hangover.
2. At no point is this piece going to progress to “…and that’s why you should never drink again.” If you choose abstinence for your own reasons, or because it makes you feel amazing, more power to you. But for the rest of us, balance, guys. All we really need to do is collectively pledge to stop looking at our fucking phones all the time, to call our mums, and to, for the most part, ensure that we’re eating our greens because cause and effect, guys. Plus nobody enjoys a lecture (even though I give such good ones), so here’s what’s up: you’ve got to find the booze that loves you back.
Sometime after the near-death hangover I drank gin and woke up feeling human, which is when I realized that this wasn’t, in fact, because my liver was struggling to cope with university life in the UK, but because I was making pretty shitty drink choices. That was 2004 and I haven’t drunk whisky since. I’ve also been a pretty steady advocate of gin until, only a couple of years ago, I drank a lot of tequila one night and woke up with a serious case of The Fearfuls only to find…that I felt pretty okay. Margaritas might not be (okay, aren’t) a superfood, but honestly, tequila is my jam because I can have a couple of drinks without a heavy head the next day and that is pure gold.
Pure, clear tequila is lowest in hangover-inducing congeners, though the tequila that you likely recall knocking back at university is ‘mixto’, which is the shitty stuff, containing only 51 per cent agave. The purest tequila is blanco or silver (100 per cent agave), and this is the one you want if you want to feel good the following day. It is also, er, vegan, and gluten-free. I’m only sort of kidding; it is actually a better choice for wheat sensitive people (like myself). A thing to note though: the way you drink your tequila matters. Neat, on the rocks, or with a squeeze of lime or a splash of soda is probably best. If you hammer back sugary margaritas all night, all bets are off. (Sounds like a fun night though, can I come?)
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about not drinking for a month, and it turned into a little bit of a love letter to booze:
"Alcohol has been part of my life for as long as I can. Red wine runs like blood through my mother’s veins, and it isn’t a family gathering until everyone has a glass in their hands. Most of my relationships, whether romantic or platonic, were cemented after nights (and days) of imbibing… everything (anything); good wine, terrible wine, cheap vodka, and even an unnamed vodka brand at the now-defunct (thank heavens) Supper Factory in Delhi that had me flailing in misery in bed for a whole 24 hours after. It’s been the fuel for some of the most wonderful conversations I’ve ever had (and some uncomfortable truths I definitely wouldn’t have told), the fodder for some of the most ridiculous, and lubrication for all manner of revelry, unleashing a different version of me, usually better, funnier, more relaxed, just…more."
All of which still holds true, as does this: Long-term, heavy drinking causes bad stuff, we all know this. There’s no sanctimony here, none at all, but regular drinking causes inflammation, issues with the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, hormone disruption, weight gain, anxiety, depression… there’s more, but it is so boring to list when Google exists.
To paraphrase Michael Pollan: Drink booze, not too much, and mostly tequila.
I will say this though, people look at you weirdly when you order tequila at a bar. It’s like this “YEAH SHE LIKES TO PARTY” moment of recognition, except, dudes, it’s like the opposite. I guess “YEAH SHE LIKES TO WAKE UP FEELING FRESH AND WITH MENTAL CLARITY” is less catchy and also not a particularly snappy judgement to make when waiting in line at the bar though, so I just nod, like “yeah” and we all get on with it.